What You Need to Know about Two-Column Resumes

Among the resume design options available to today's job seekers is the fresh, eye-catching two-column format. Such a deviation from the standard single-column arrangement certainly can stand out in a pile. Weighing into the decision, however, should be an awareness of this style's potential problems.

Creating a two-column resume

Employers expect to see certain information on a resume. Knowing an applicant's work history skills, and education helps to judge suitability for the role at hand. Regardless of resume style, solid content rules. Using keywords that reflect the needs presented in the job posting and tailoring your resume to emphasize why you are a great match for this particular position need to be high priorities.

In a twenty-first century job hunt, how someone chooses to present these basics is no longer set in stone – or in a single column. An online search of "two-column resume images" quickly reveals creative, tasteful ways to break old-school layout barriers. Some designs contain columns of equal size. Others use one column for standard info and a shorter one as sort of a "highlights" section. Shading, color, and even a small self-photo aid in personalization and visual appeal with two-column resumes.

While setting oneself apart from the crowd often is the goal of a two-column resume, the document still should look professional and be easily readable. People questioning how to do so may want to consider using a template, which allows plenty of customization choices but assists with matters such as margins and spacing.

Important considerations

The most beautiful resume in the world means little if not seen by the appropriate person. To that end, applicants pondering a two-column format must consider the following:

Hiring managers are notoriously busy individuals. They spend very little time on each resume received and like to find information quickly. Some readers get annoyed when layouts break from expectation and just move on to the next candidate.

Likewise, industries vary in their level of acceptance of deviation. If seeking a job in a creative field or at a company that prides itself on innovation, straying from the norm may be worth the risk. For more by-the-book occupations or conservative businesses, staying tried-and-true may be a better resume choice.

Perhaps the most critical concern, however, involves technology. A large number of employers use software that scans resumes to pull out only the most promising to be seen by human eyes. Making it through this stage is of the utmost importance.

"I do not recommend two-column resumes," says job search strategist Meg Applegate, CPRW. "People are attracted to them for aesthetic reasons, but they are not compatible with applicant tracking systems (ATS). ATS will parse text in columns and jumble the information together that the writer did not intend to belong together, confusing the hiring manager. Some content may even go missing!"

While a simple-constructed, ATS-compliant resume is safest for uploads, people who like the two-column style may want to use that type of document for other purposes. Handing out a unique-looking resume at a job fair or industry conference can spark attention. Or, bring some along to a job interview to pass out to the hiring manager and others you meet. Your personality-rich resume can make a memorable initial impression!

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Beth Braccio Hering

Beth Braccio Hering

Career Advice Contributor

Beth Braccio Hering has been a freelance writer for more than 20 years. In addition to extensive contributions to various Encyclopaedia Britannica products, her work has been published by outlets such as CareerBuilder, FlexJobs, Business Management Daily, Walt Disney Internet Group, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Hering graduated from…

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